My Media Day: David MacKenzie, graphic designer and illustrator

DAVID MacKenzie is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator living and working in Edinburgh.

His work, created out of the shared creative space at Coburg House Art Studios, covers everything from corporate branding and identity to illustration, animation and packaging design. His work can be seen online at

He submitted this on Saturday, August 16.

What exactly is it you do?

I’m primarily a visual designer, although whether that’s done through the medium of illustration, typography, graphic and web design or animation can vary from day-to-day. My clients are, typically, entrepreneurs, crafters or small-to-medium sized businesses – both in Scotland and further afield.

As I frequently work with fledgling businesses, I’m often brought on board right from the get-go to handle all aspects of creating a brand and then designing ongoing promotional material, whilst providing support and guidance for business-owners who might be daunted by the thought of dealing with printers, proofs and pantone colours.

Other times, a performer, company or event might get in touch to commission a single piece of work, be it an album cover or a corporate flyer, or to update existing artwork they already have.

What did your working day today or yesterday comprise?

The first hour of my day is usually spent checking email, sending out quotes and organising meetings with clients. As soon as that busywork is wrapped up, though, I can dive straight into some design work. Yesterday morning was spent laying out some proofs for wedding albums as part of ongoing work I do for a local wedding photographer.

After a quick bite to eat, sitting in the sun on the balcony of the studio, and catching up with the other artists and crafters who I share a space with, I was polishing off a book cover for a long-time client: a musician and writer with whom I’ve worked closely since I became a freelancer.

The novel is a quirky fantasy story and it was decided early on that it would be done as a digital painting, so the work required the use of a graphics tablet and plenty of photo reference. When I’m doing work like this, that is an intensive process, I’ll often listen to podcasts, either fairly high-brow fare like ‘99% Invisible’ or just pop culture channels like ‘The Nerdist’.

This was wrapped up by late afternoon just in time to get an email from another client who urgently required packaging designs to be created and sent to the printers. I jumped straight into this and got it sent it off around 5:30pm.

As I still had some loose ends to tie up, I grabbed a beetroot wrap for dinner from the pub next door and then finished off the day answering new emails and amending my schedule for tomorrow.

Overall, yesterday was quite varied; some days I’ll be focusing on a single project, other days (like yesterday) it’s a mix. This ability to switch between disciplines has always been an attraction of working freelance and helps me to avoid creative burnout in the long-term.

How different or similar is your average working day to when you started?

Not an awful lot different, to be honest. I’ve definitely reduced the amount of time I spend on administration and busywork through automation; my back-up system is entirely automated, as is most of my invoicing and accounting.

I’ve also seen a drastic reduction in the amount of time I have to dedicate to advertising and generating new clients, as I’m lucky enough now to have a generous base of clients who recommend me to their own contacts, leaving me with more time to get stuck in to the hands-on work of creating.

How do you see your job evolving?

This is a tricky one as I’m really happy with the way my business is working, at the moment.

I’ll always love working with clients, even the challenging ones, and being part of projects and industries that I might otherwise never have heard about.

But now that I’ve reached a level of financial stability that might allow it, I’d like to look at dedicating a portion of my time to developing my own visual work and pursuing self-initiated projects that I care about.

Ideally, I’d like to reach a nice equilibrium where both types of work are supporting me, although where I’d go from there I’m not quite sure yet, I’m happy to leave my options open.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Meeting someone with an idea that they care deeply about and being able to help turn that into a reality, no matter how small the part I play in it, is the most rewarding part of my job.

I love those first few meetings with a client when they’re bubbling with ideas and possibilities but don’t know how to execute them visually and being able to say, “Yes, here’s how we can make that happen.”